Late last month, a customer asked the manager at a pizza parlor in Greenville, South Carolina, to post a sign to “warn” other customers that people with special needs work there. And as they say, the customer’s always right.
So that’s exactly what Pizza Inn owner Amanda Cartagine did. But the wording was less a warning, and more a message about empathy, compassion and inclusiveness.
The incident was sparked when the customer asked an autistic employee to refill a lettuce bowl, which isn’t part of his job. The manager intervened and explained that the employee has training for a specific job, and that’s when the customer became angry and made his rude suggestion.
“These are like my kids, and it made me angry,” said Amanda. “I wanted to do something that was not rude, but got my point across.” The sign was the perfect solution.
Pizza Inn employs 16 people to work in the kitchen and, of those, Amanda says, 10 have special needs. It’s not clear what position the employee who the customer complained about holds, but whatever it is, Amanda wants everyone who walks through those doors to know that she’s incredibly proud of them and the work they do.
Whether they work at Pizza Inn or elsewhere in the community, she says, people with special needs are “a unique group that everyone should tap into, because they will bless you more than you will ever know.”
“If you have the patience to let them take their time and learn at their pace, when the light bulb comes on, they are unstoppable,” she says, and that’s whether they’re washing dishes or serving pizza.
Meanwhile, parents of the special-needs employees have rallied behind the new sign, as well as hundreds who read about the incident online, thanking Amanda for standing up to a bully and for “treating each person with respect and dignity.”
Putting up that sign sends a clear message to anyone who’s offended that people with special needs work there: If they don’t like it, they’re more than welcome to spend their money elsewhere.
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